The sea is steadily eating into the Sundarbans, the world’s largest delta and mangrove forest, threatening an ecological disaster for the Bengal basin region. The 20,000 square kilometre forest delta stretches across the lower reaches of the Bengal basin
- 60% falling in Bangladesh and the rest in West Bengal.
Satellite imagery shows that the sea level in the Sundarbans has risen at an average rate of 3.14 centimetres a year over the past two decades - much higher than the global average of two millimetres a year. Scientists believe that in the next 50 years,
a rise of even one metre in sea level would inundate 1,000 sq.km of the Sundarbans.
In the past two decades, four islands - Bedford, Lohachara, Kabasgadi and Suparibhanga - have sunk into the sea and 6,000 families have been made homeless. Two other islands - Ghoramara and Mousuni - are fast going under. The district administration has
constructed huge embankments to ring the coastal inlands. But during high tides, the embankments are damaged. Some develop cracks and collapse.
A total of 54 of the 102 islands in the Indian Sundarbans are still habitableAbout 2,500 sq.km have been set aside as a tiger reserve since 1973. Since the first settlements in 1770, the population of the Indian Sundarbans has risen 200% to nearly 4.3 million.
The population has put pressure on the ecosystem, which acts as a nursery for the aquatic resources of the Bay of Bengal. Scientists say that the Sundarbans, South Asia’s largest "carbon sink" - which mops up carbon dioxide - must survive to help prevent
global warming. But will it?